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Durham University

Research & business

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Prof Brian Tanner, M.A., D.Phil., C.Phys., F.Inst.P, F.H.E.A., F.R.S.A.

Emeritus Professor in the Department of Physics
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 43518
Room number: 120
Member of the Durham X-ray Centre
Department Rep (Physics) in the Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies

Contact Prof Brian Tanner (email at


Responsibilities within department

Having retired as Dean for University Enterprise, I am now an Emeritus Professor of Physics with no responsibilities. I am fortunate to be granted office space in the Department from which to pursue continued academic activity

Teaching activity

I am retired but give occasional public talks.

Research interests

My research interests centre around the use of x-ray scattering to probe the structure of materials. I am particularly focused on the effect of strain on the mechanical and electronic properties of semiconductors and the relationship between structure and magnetic properties of thin film materials used for magnetic devices in the recording industry. Experiments are performed at the Diamond Light Source at Didcot near Oxford with collaborators from Dublin and Freiburg. I continue to collaborate with scientists at Kromek plc, a NETPark-based spin-out company whose technology is based on work to which I contributed in the 1990s. In addition, I am a member of the interdisciplinary Ordered Universe project studying the work of the 13th century polymath, Robert Grosseteste.

Recent peer-reviewed journal publications include:

Quantitative imaging of the stress/strain fields and generation of macroscopic cracks from indents in Silicon, B.K. Tanner, D. Allen, J. Wittge, A.N. Danilewsky, J. Garagorri, E. Gorostegui-Colinas, M.R. Elizalde and P.J.McNally, Crystals 7 (2017) 347

Structural and optical properties of oxygen doped single crystal ZnTe grown by Multi-tube Physical Vapor Transport, J.T. Mullins, F. Dierre, D.P. Halliday, B.K. Tanner, I. Radley, Z. Kang and C.J. Summers, J. Mater. Sci.: Mater. in Electronics 28 (2017) 11950-11960

Bow-shaped caustics from conical prisms: a 13th Century account of rainbow formation from Robert Grosseteste’s De iride, J.S.Harvey, H.E.Smithson, C.R.Siviour, G.E.M.Gasper, S.O.Sønnesyn, B.K.Tanner and T.C.B.McLeish, Applied Optics 56 (2017) G197-G204

Non-destructive X-ray diffraction measurement of warpage in silicon die embedded in integrated circuit packages, B.K.Tanner, A.N. Danilewsky, R.K. Vijayaraghavan, A. Cowley and P.J. McNally, J. Appl. Cryst. 50 (2017) 547-554


Emeritus Professor Brian Tanner moved to Durham in 1973 as a University Lecturer, after holding a Junior Research Fellowship at Linacre College, Oxford. Promoted to Senior Lecturer in 1983, Reader in 1986 and Professor in 1990, he served as Head of Durham University Physics Department from 1996-1999. From 1999-2000 he held a Sir James Knott Foundation Fellowship and from 2000-2001 he was a Leverhulme Research Fellow. From 2000 part of his time was spent as Director of the North East Centre for Scientific Enterprise and subsequently as the Director of the University Technology Transfer Office. From 2008-2012 he was Dean of Knowledge Transfer in Durham University and from 2012 until his retirement in 2016 was its Dean for University Enterprise. He has served on numerous Research Council committees and panels, and from 1998-2000 was chairman of a scientific review committee at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble.

In 1978 he co-founded a spin-off company, Bede Scientific Instruments Ltd that floated on the London Stock Exchange in November 2000 as Bede plc. It was acquired by Jordan Valley Semiconductors in 2008, still currently employing 30 people on Belmont Business Park, Durham. From 2003 until 2015, Professor Tanner was a non-executive director of another spin-out from Durham which has become the Kromek Group plc, floating on the London Stock Exchange AIM market in October 2013.

He has published nearly 400 papers in refereed international scientific journals, written 2 books, co-authored 3 books and edited 3 books. His current research interests lie in understanding the relationship between magnetic, optical and structural properties of advanced materials, making particular use of high resolution X-ray scattering. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. In 2005 he was jointly awarded Barrett Award of the Pennsylvania-based International Center for Diffraction Data and in 2012 he received the Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion. He received the Gabor Prize and Medal of the Institute of Physics in 2014.

Outside of the University, he is Chair of the County Durham Economic Partnership. He is also an enthusiastic amateur musician, being organist at Elvet Methodist Church, Durham and a double bass player with the New Tyneside Orchestra.

Research Groups

Centre for Materials Physics

Department of Physics

Research Projects

Department of Geography

Department of History

Research Interests

  • Metallic multilayers
  • Semiconductors and ceramics
  • X-ray scattering and magnetism

Indicators of Esteem

  • :

    2005 Barrett Award of the International Centre for Diffraction Data, Pennsylvania, USA

    2012 Queen's Award for Enterprise promotion

    2014 Gabor (formerly Duddell) Medal and Prize of the Institute of Physics


Chapter in book

Conference Paper

Conference Proceeding

Journal Article

Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • Industry & University: academic/industrial development
  • Industry & University: co-founder, Bede Scientific Instruments Ltd, now Bede plc
  • Technology transfer: academic/industrial development
  • Technology transfer: co-founder, Bede Scientific Instruments Ltd, now Bede plc
  • Industry: Chemicals, plastics, oil & gas: academic/industrial development
  • Industry: Chemicals, plastics, oil & gas: co-founder, Bede Scientific Instruments Ltd
  • Music: physics of (and) music
  • Science: Education, industry & the community: academic/industrial development
  • Science: Education, industry & the community: co-founder, Bede Scientific Instruments Ltd, now Bede plc
  • Atomic particles: Basic matter: physics of materials
  • Atomic particles: Basic matter: ionizing radiation
  • Industrial materials: physics of materials
  • Industrial materials: ionizing radiation